If you tend to feel down when winter rolls around, it can be hard to focus on studying for the EPPP. While the holidays are typically known as a cheerful time of year, they can unfortunately be characterized for some by a feeling of heaviness and of being weighed down. Decreased daylight and increased time indoors can contribute to anxiety and depression that many associate with the winter season.
According to Counseling Today, about 5% of adults in the United States experience what is called seasonal affective disorder or, fittingly so, SAD. It classifies as “major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern.” The shorter daylight hours throw off the circadian rhythm leading to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Symptoms are like that of depression such as decreased interest in activities you normally enjoy, difficulty getting out of bed, oversleeping, physical aches and pains, and fatigue. What sets SAD apart from depression is the pattern of symptoms in that they typically appear after daylight savings time.
Here are five tips to beat the winter blues, and stay focused on studying for the EPPP.
Knowing the source of pain helps us manage it.
Understanding that the changing season is the reason you feel lousy can inspire you take steps to manage your symptoms. Furthermore, learning that you are not alone can inspire you to seek help. There are ways to prepare for the onset of seasonal depression and tools to help you manage the symptoms.
2. Stay Healthy
Staying healthy encompasses three things:
1. Healthy sleep habits
2. Eating right
Symptoms of SAD often oppose these three areas of staying healthy. As we mentioned, symptoms include oversleeping as well as aches and pains. You may also crave simple carbs or alcohol and sugars – all things that are difficult to stay away from during the winter holidays. Carbs, alcohol, and sugar temporarily boost dopamine levels, which can be an unhealthy form of self-medicating your seasonal depression. It is unhealthy because it does not help you manage your symptoms or find healing in the long term. Because health can be difficult to maintain while depressed, it is important to stay ahead of seasonal depression through planning, which leads us to our next tip.
Does the coming of winter give you anxiety because you know that you’re about to battle a feeling of heaviness and being weighed down?
Prepare for what is coming by normalizing SAD through education and by creating healthy habits as we mentioned in steps 1 and 2.
Perhaps you have yet to seek help for years of seasonal depression. It is not too late to get help and create a plan to beat the blues. Then, before next daylight savings time, you can have a plan ready to stay ahead of your depression.
4. Go Outside
The main trigger of seasonal depression is decreased daylight.
It is crucial, therefore, to experience as much of that daylight as you can. Getting extra light exposure can make a big difference in your day-to-day energy levels and willingness to be healthy.
Studying for the EPPP in the winter is challenging. Not only is there less daylight but you are likely staying indoors with a heavy load of studying. In this case, it is important to take study breaks outside. Breaks are as important as studying itself. They allow your brain to process information. Outdoor study breaks, such as taking a walk around the block, will be especially productive on the sunny winter days. Getting outside when it’s gloomy, however, will still be more productive than spending the entire day indoors.
5. Cling to Hope
Seasonal depression will not last forever.
If you understand that winter might be to blame for your lousy feelings, there is hope in the coming of spring.
There are ways to manage your symptoms this season. The trick is to strategize and stick to it.